Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The letter from Carolyn Carter of Gettysburg, Pa., who wanted to know where she could park mid-morning and get on Metro prompted me to write. She is right about all the parking being gone at Shady Grove before sunrise, but the key to her question is "mid-morning."

She may not realize that the "reserved parking" spaces open up to anyone at 10 a.m. At that hour it is my experience they are never full. Usually almost half of them are empty.

She should just time her arrival at Shady Grove for 10 a.m. (or a few minutes before) and use one of those spaces. I do it all the time if I have a doctor's appointment or just sleep in. This is not just true of Shady Grove but applies to all the stations with Metro parking facilities.

Murray R. Welsh


Too Much Growth

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Development along Montrose Road and Rockville Pike are prime examples of allowing major development without adequate transportation. I have lived over 20 years along Montrose Road, in the Old Farm subdivision, and have seen development turn Montrose Road into gridlock.

Townhouses, single-family homes and townhouse offices have been built on virtually every square foot of land, excluding the "parkway" right of way.

Multiple high-rise buildings have been built, and new ones are being built along Rockville Pike. A large apartment building is near completion in what was the back parking lot of the Congressional Plaza along East Jefferson Road.

Before the building boom, the traffic on Montrose Road was not a problem. County officials created gridlock by permitting uncontrolled development, and now to fix the problem they are ready to build a $60 million parkway.

Oh, by the way, unless Maryland spends an additional $50 million on a Rockville Pike interchange, the Montrose Parkway apparently will end at Executive Boulevard, resulting in a traffic disaster.

Do you think that the coveted convention center might also be a factor in county officials' decision process? Instead of the concept "build it and they will come," the county's approach is to "build, build, build and the roads will come when citizens beg for roads to relieve gridlock."

Regarding your response to Mr. [Doug] Viner's letter [Dr. Gridlock, Jan. 9], specifically "why haven't some slow growth or sensible growth candidates emerged at election time": The answer is quite simple. Who is willing to fight [Montgomery County Executive Douglas M.] Duncan or other pro-growth candidates supported by big business funding? As an example, look what happened to the prior members of the Montgomery County Council who opposed Doug Duncan. They were defeated in the 2002 election to the great delight of Mr. Duncan.

Mr. Duncan and his supporters will continue to rule Montgomery County despite continued bending/breaking of existing laws, as no one is willing to challenge Mr. Duncan and his big business supporters.

Bill Voss


I think you folks in Montgomery County are on the verge of a transportation catastrophe. What you need to do is build a two-party system in the county.

If residents have no alternative, how will they effect change?

No other jurisdiction treats my questions with such delay as Montgomery County does, and I have access to a printing press. What chance do regular residents have?

E-Z Rip-Off?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The $1 monthly surcharge New Jersey is imposing for using E-ZPass is a long and sordid tale. If you are interested, the Bergen (N.J.) Record has a whole section -- -- devoted to the New Jersey E-ZPass problem.

The short version is: E-ZPass was "sold" to the public with the promise that it would cost nothing to install . . . all costs would be covered by fines from toll violators.

Well, needless to say those fines didn't cover the costs, and they are in the red for the deployment. New Jersey's brilliant plan to deal with this deficit is to charge those with New Jersey E-ZPass accounts $1 a month for the privilege of using E-ZPass.

Paul M. Johnson


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I opted out of the New Jersey E-ZPass Regional Consortium due to its uncalled for monthly $1 surcharge and joined the Maryland E-ZPass (you do not have to live in Maryland to join up). No extra charge! No need to go to New York E-ZPass, as your column suggested. Go to or call 888-321-6824. I received my new transponders in a week.

Saul I. Gass


Standing Up for SUVs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your question, "What would you have done before SUVs came on the market?" was patronizing, unwarranted and uninformed.

SUVs have been around a lot longer than the term SUV has. A 1968 or earlier Suburban serves on the Bridgewater, Va., local rescue squad -- they can't find anything better, so they just keep repairing it.

I have seen photos of Suburbans much older than that one.

My Suburban doubles as pickup and family car. I need both but can afford only one. It carries two families to the Kennedy Center or to dinner, or one family, two kayaks and a week's worth of equipment to the beach.

It hauls 10 bales of hay or 12 bags of shavings to the barn -- not to mention the lumber to build the stalls. It takes six kids (not all mine) and two adults to and from competitions, youth groups or the park, as necessary. It hauls a 14-foot stock trailer with two horses or three ponies and all their equipment.

Find me another vehicle that can do the same with lower mileage (16 miles per gallon city, 19 highway) -- I'd be more than happy to buy it.

I drive carefully and considerately, more than I can say for the smug compact and family car drivers who routinely cut me off. (They could very easily see around me if they weren't so busy tailgating.)

I try to keep my high beams out of everyone's eyes. Again, SUV drivers are hardly the only offenders here. The bottom line is that consideration for other drivers is a question of who is behind the wheel, not what vehicle they drive.

Katie McLaughlin Phalen


Honk if You're Mad

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

HOV violators, shoulder drivers, red-light runners, jaywalkers, all of them are getting on my nerves more every day.

I go back and forth on whether to honk at them or not. What do you and your readers think?

What if we all started honking at these folks to let them know we don't like it?

I hate to contribute to road rage or noise pollution. But these scofflaws need some attention, and they are not getting it from the law. I am talking about the blatant offenders who have no regard for conventional road rules.

What if, when a person drives down the shoulder to get to the off-ramp a half-mile ahead, 10 cars sitting in traffic honk at him in disapproval? Would they get the message? Would it change some behaviors?

Matt Allan


I don't favor honking to make a point because that can trigger a road rage incident, like when you are parked at a red light and the driver you have honked at gets out and heads toward you. What do you folks think?

Don't Blame Builders

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your railing against developers for causing the problems of traffic congestion and urban sprawl is silly. Every year, 1.3 million legal and about 800,000 illegal immigrants arrive in the United States, despite the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Americans.

That 2.1 million total is like adding 3 1/2 Washingtons every year. All those immigrants have to live somewhere. Blaming developers for housing them is like blaming farmers for feeding them.

Dan Rabil


Where did you get the idea I support expanded housing for illegal immigrants? My sense is that most new subdivisions in this area offer housing at $250,000-plus and are usually sold to affluent residents.

As a matter of fact, I oppose free education, health care, housing, automatic citizenship conferred to newborns, full voting rights, easy access to driver's licenses and bank accounts that are offered to illegal immigrants and are a big part of the attraction to come here.

Danger: Parking Lot

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It is my contention that the most dangerous place to drive is not any of the roads or highways in the area, but in the parking lot of a supermarket.

For almost all the drivers in these areas, the rules of the road appear to be tossed aside, starting with those drivers who seem to think that the lanes are speedways at the Indy 500 as they hurtle toward any parking space nearest the door to the supermarket, ignoring pedestrians and other cars backing out of parking spaces.

Then there are the drivers of SUVs talking on their cell phones as they drive down the center of the lane, expecting everyone else to move out of their way.

My car has been in the body repair shop countless times from these careless, selfish drivers and has more dents than the moon has craters. Although I have no idea just how this situation can be corrected, perhaps this letter will alert the driving offenders to the very dangerous game they play with the lives and property of others.

Eugene D. Markowski


One thing we can do is park in the spot farthest from the front door. Less dent potential and good exercise.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Montgomery Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.